There are hundreds of running shoes on the market and new models introduced each year. Whether you’re a casual jogger or a competitive marathon runner, there’s a plethora of advice about how to choose the best shoe for you.
Some experts advocate for minimal cushioning in running shoes, and even for running barefoot. Others tout arch supports, heavily-cushioned shoes, or firm shoes designed to maintain stability. With all of the options out there, how does a runner really know which shoe to use? A new systematic review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine explores that question.
Benno Nigg, an emeritus professor of kinesiology at the University of Calgary in Canada, reviewed studies about the connection between running shoes an injuries published in the past 20 years. Most of the studies investigated two main goals for running shoes: preventing pronation, when the foot rolls inward, and providing the proper amount of cushion to protect joints.
But in the review, Nigg and his colleagues found no evidence that pronating while you run leads to greater injury, or that using a stable shoe to prevent prontation helped to reduce injuries. They also found little evidence that shoes prevented injuries by altering the impact of striking the ground repeatedly, either with cushioned shoes or shoes with minimal cushioning.
But Nigg did find evidence that runners can improve their comfort level and reduce the risk of injury through a very simple process: selecting the shoe that feels most comfortable. The idea is that each person uses his or her own measure of comfort to chose a show that accommodates the way they run.
Our bodies are actually “very good judges” of how each of us should run, Nigg told the New York Times. And the risk of injury increases when we ignore out bodies’ natural movements. He advocates trying on four or five pairs of running shoes at the store, and jogging around in them. “People can usually tell right away which shoe feels the most comfortable,” he said. “That is the one to choose.”
The take-home message: The next time you’re shopping for running shoes, go for the ones that feel the best on your feet. That’s some easy-to-implement evidence-based advice!